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Explorers of Time

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Noctowl used Hypnosis!


Sleep. Unconsciousness. Blissful nothing; when you wake up, you wish you hadn't. The little bird that gave you such a gift is on the grassy ground below, almost drowned, almost dead. Your feet ache, your inner fire is clawing at your insides, your body strains with the energy for an evolution that's never coming. Left, right, left, right, a Stantler burned alive, a Breloom crushed in your partner's jaws, an apple hastily eaten, the grassy stairs that are your whole existence.


Totodile grew to level 51!


You can hear them mumbling their muffled joy, like a mantra, like a chant for the darkest legends in books you'll never read. The stone you loved so much when you could love hits your back, thunk, thunk, thunk.


so close we're so close we're so close


Their eyes see nothing but the twists and the turns and the enemies, experience, prey that will never be eaten. You will follow them to the end. There is no end. You will follow them. You can't do anything else.


we can't stop until we're there we have to go why do we have to go why why WHY


They're fighting something you'll never see, and your feet obediently drag you to a stop. You want to offer a paw, tell them to be strong, to finish this. But there's nothing that can be finished, and your muscles are only for fighting and walking. You haven't spoken a word in days, weeks, years. Even if you could say something, you don't know if they would hear you. They're nowhere, in their head: maybe it isn't even their head anymore. They aren't themselves, and you're beginning to think that they never were, never will be.


i want to stop i want to sleep sleep sleep i want this to end it hurts so much please


They keep walking, up the stairs, and you follow. You wonder, because you want to know you still can. Do you exist? You, at least, have the luxury of something to hold onto; hopes of the past, dreams, fears. They mean nothing, but you have them. Your partner doesn't have that luxury, your partner might not even be real. Sometimes you blink, and you swear that for a moment, they fade out to something else. Like a roulette of varying personalities that are all excruciatingly the same. It was a Chikorita, once; you've never seen one of those before. Part of you thinks you still haven't. They're not as real as you are, after all. They're something you'll never be able to name no matter how many floors of forest, of cave, of mountain you will have to endlessly travel through.


Cyndaquil grew to level 51!


It hurts, infinitely more than the last time, eons ago. You can't control your inner fire; a Pinsir becomes ash, along with the tiles of forest adjacent to it. Tiles in the grid, Pokemon in the grid, little red dots that never stop spawning. You want to curl up and die, let yourself be consumed by the fog, by the existence that has forsaken you. You walk another step, another grid square, and words spill out that neither of you can hear. "That's it!" You say, and you don't say, because you don't have it in you to talk anymore, and haven't in weeks, years, eons. "I've leveled up!"


make it stop we're in pain we have to get stronger why do we have to but we have to we're so close we're so close


The stairs. The light. The camp, again. Chatot. You tried, once, when your existence had started its descent, to tell this little bird that you had been down there again, and again, and it had to have been days, and how was he still here? How was anything still here? The words never escaped your mouth, and never would the next times you tried. Your distress went ignored; you weren't real, neither was Chatot. Something that wasn't real couldn't help you. All that existed was the trees and the fog and the prey, and you wanted so badly to believe that those were real, because the alternative was so much worse. Something fake in a fake world doing nothing at all, that couldn't be all you were. You had to have something you could hold on to.


"So where do you want to go?"


The you that's not you asks, uselessly, as it has a billion times before. The fog reaches out to your wounded spirit; you long to join it, to escape this punishment you didn't know you deserved. But a Rescue Teammate never abandons their partner; a distant creed from a desire that's even more ancient. Unfailingly, their feet lead you back into Forest Path, back into the dungeon.


You follow.


Beyond the fog, the sun skips back into the place it held an hour before, the horizon forced out of its reach. Reset, again.


They lead.


Beyond the fog, there is nothing that exists. No guild, no Rescue Teams, nothing. It is out of your sight, waiting for its moment to exist again. Waiting and waiting.


Your vision blurs. You think that they flash into a Cyndaquil for a moment, a mirror image of yourself, but when you blink, they come back. You find yourself beginning to mumble something, and you can't stop once you've started.


i hate you. i hate you. i hate you.


You can barely hear their response. You don't want to.


i'm sorry.


Forest Path. 1F.